How to File for a Divorce in Missouri: A Step-by-Step Guide
Going through a divorce can be a challenging and emotionally draining process. If you find yourself in this situation in Missouri, understanding the legal requirements and procedures can help ease the stress. This article will guide you through the process of filing for a divorce in Missouri and provide answers to some frequently asked questions.
Step 1: Meet the Residency Requirements
Before filing for a divorce in Missouri, you or your spouse must be a resident of the state for at least 90 days. If you meet this requirement, you can proceed with the divorce process.
Step 2: Determine Grounds for Divorce
Missouri recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. No-fault grounds include irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or living separate and apart for at least six months. Fault grounds may include adultery, abandonment, or abuse. Determine which grounds are applicable to your situation.
Step 3: Prepare the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
The next step is to complete the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage form. This form can be obtained from the circuit court clerk’s office in the county where you or your spouse reside. Provide all necessary information, including details about children, assets, and debts.
Step 4: File the Petition and Pay the Filing Fee
Once you have completed the petition, file it with the circuit court clerk. There is a filing fee that must be paid at this time, which varies depending on the county. If you cannot afford the fee, you may be eligible for a waiver.
Step 5: Serve the Petition to Your Spouse
Your spouse must be served with a copy of the petition. This can be done by a process server, sheriff, or anyone over the age of 18 who is not involved in the case. Proof of service must be filed with the court.
Step 6: Wait for a Response
After being served, your spouse has 30 days to file a response. If no response is filed, the divorce may proceed as an uncontested case. If a response is filed, the case may become contested, requiring further legal proceedings.
Step 7: Negotiate Settlement or Go to Trial
If both parties can agree on the terms of the divorce, you can negotiate a settlement. This typically involves division of assets, child custody, and support. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case may go to trial, where a judge will make the final decisions.
Step 8: Finalize the Divorce
If an agreement is reached, a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage will be prepared. This document is submitted to the court for approval. Once approved, the divorce is finalized, and the marriage is legally dissolved.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. How long does it take to get a divorce in Missouri?
The time it takes to finalize a divorce in Missouri varies depending on the complexity of the case. On average, it can take anywhere from a few months to over a year.
2. Can I get a divorce without hiring an attorney?
Yes, it is possible to file for divorce without an attorney. However, it is recommended to seek legal advice to ensure your rights are protected and the process goes smoothly.
3. How is child custody determined?
Child custody is determined based on the best interests of the child. The court considers factors such as each parent’s ability to care for the child, the child’s relationship with each parent, and the child’s preferences (if they are old enough to express them).
4. Can I change my name during the divorce process?
Yes, you can request a name change during the divorce process by including it in your petition. However, it is subject to court approval.
5. Do I need to attend counseling before getting a divorce in Missouri?
Missouri law does not require counseling before filing for divorce. However, some couples may choose to attend counseling to explore the possibility of reconciliation or to address any emotional issues.
6. What happens to our joint assets and debts during the divorce?
Missouri follows the principle of equitable distribution, which means that marital assets and debts are divided fairly but not necessarily equally. The court will consider various factors, such as each party’s contributions to the marriage and their financial circumstances.
7. Can I get spousal support (alimony)?
Spousal support may be awarded if one spouse is financially dependent on the other and lacks the ability to support themselves. The court considers factors such as the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse, and their standard of living during the marriage.
8. Can I modify child custody or support orders after the divorce is finalized?
Yes, child custody and support orders can be modified if there is a significant change in circumstances. However, the court will consider the child’s best interests when deciding whether to modify the orders.
9. What if my spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers?
If your spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers, the case may become contested. In such situations, it is advisable to seek legal representation to protect your interests and navigate the legal proceedings effectively.
Navigating the divorce process in Missouri can be complex and emotionally challenging. It is important to consult with an attorney or seek legal advice to ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.